Despite my unswerving love of sportsbikes, it’s actually shockingly uncommon to find me donning some one-piece leathers, and heading out on track. But after doing the ‘leathers on’ dance for ten minutes a crisp morning blast to Donington Park sees me lining up in pitlane with rather a lot of other BMWs.
The prevalence of Germany’s finest is no surprise, it’s a BMW owners’ trackday after all, but some of the bikes lurking in the pit garages are uncommon sights. A beautiful HP2 Sport glides serenely past, followed by an R1200RT – both in the novice group – while track bikes and every colour and year of S1000RR are more predictably present. Yes, including that Korma-sick colour from 2010.
I’ve not been on track in almost exactly a year, but at least that was also Donington, albeit on an MCN Awards industry shindig where manners were required to be impeccable. I’ve not ridden a 1000cc sportsbike on a public trackday in over a decade, so while I’m happy enough to nudge myself into the Intermediate group, I’ve got very little context to judge what might happen next.
As I roll towards Redgate for the first time I remember that I’m still in Slick mode, which isn’t going to please the anti-wheelie black-flag-waving police, so I quickly knock it into Race mode, and get back to concentrating on the joy of Craner on cold tyres. Two laps later, and our signing laps are over. We peel back in to await the start of proper sessions, and twenty minutes later I pass back under the inflatable BMW arch, and let the RR off the leash.
I’m pleased to find myself being held up by other riders and my desire not to be ‘that dick from MCN who cut me up’, but on lap two the normally slick quickshifter refuses to give me third. I try again to no avail, and drift off-line to get out of the traffic. Slowing to a crawl, hand in the air, it goes back into first, and up to second again, but third is not on the menu. Then the lever fails to respond at all. I coast round to the pits and get on my knees to find that the top shift arm has drifted free of the spline. Doh.
While the Prime Factors mechanics (they and Tyco BMW were in attendance) whisk it away to be sorted, I borrow a Focused Events school RR and get back out on track. It feels oddly alien with its race bodywork and seat unit, but we soon gel, and while feeling in the flow, I switch to a stock RR press bike and go straight back out in the Fast group.
A lurid two-wheel slide through Redgate on the penultimate lap made me realise that I hadn’t looked to see what rubber I was on, or think to check the pressures. Reminder duly noted. Back in pitlane for a breather, I only had to wait one more session before getting out on my own bike again, this time riding with Lee Nicholls, BMW-Motorrad’s National Marketing & PR Manager, for a bit of a dogfight. We trust each other’s riding implicitly, and what follows is some of the rudest out-braking block-pass fun I’ve had in years.
What’s less fun is seeing how many owners are more than happy to nail it on the throttle-stop in a straight line, but wander around in the middle of corners like they’ve dropped their keys. If ever there was a great visual reminder of the value of training, this was it.
But the RR was sublime. Cosseting me in the care of its electronics, and letting me worry about lines and other trackdayers, rather than fearing lock-ups or highsides. What I really like though, is that it doesn’t rob you of feel or responsibility. Hard braking in the Melboune Loop has it slewing the back end on occasions, and a concrete right hand will still land you on the floor or in the kitty litter. A few discovered this to their discomfort.
Dogfighting aside, the real highlight was chasing an S1000XR-mounted Tommy Bridewell. Those laps will stay in my mind’s eye for a long time. It was truly hilarious, and a firm reminder of how big the gulf in talent is between us.
Tested power 196.26bhp
Tested Torque 85.05ftlb
Minor Service – £140 This is the cost of the first service, which was carried out at 313 miles. The second service will be due in 550 miles.
BMW S1000RR Sport, £14,760
Miles to date: 6087
Mods to date £2865.10
More updates at: Richard's BMW S1000RR